Applicability of the Lobbying Act to Grass-roots Communications

Authority

This Interpretation Bulletin is issued by the Commissioner of Lobbying (the Commissioner) under the authority of subsection 10(1) of the Lobbying Act (the Act).

Purpose

This bulletin elaborates on the meaning of “grass-roots communication” and clarifies that paid lobbyists involved in grass-roots communication campaigns may be required to register even if their activities do not include direct communication with public office holders.

Legislation

Sections 5 and 7 of the Lobbying Act state that registration may be required, if individuals communicate with public office holders, for payment, on behalf of a client or employer, with respect to:

  • the development of any legislative proposal by the Government of Canada or by a member of the Senate or the House of Commons;
  • the introduction of any Bill or resolution in either House of Parliament or the passage, defeat or amendment of any Bill or resolution that is before either House of Parliament;
  • the making or amendment of any regulation as defined in subsection 2(1) of the Statutory Instruments Act;
  • the development or amendment of any policy or program of the Government of Canada;
  • the awarding of any grant, contribution or other financial benefit by or on behalf of Her Majesty in right of Canada; or
  • the awarding of any contract by or on behalf of Her Majesty in right of Canada (consultant lobbyists only).

The term “grass-roots communication” is defined in paragraph 5(2)(j) of the Act as:

"[... ] any appeals to members of the public through the mass media or by direct communication that seek to persuade those members of the public to communicate directly with a public office holder in an attempt to place pressure on the public office holder to endorse a particular opinion."

Commissioner’s Interpretation

The reporting regime is intended to be comprehensive and transparent to ensure that the Canadian public knows who communicates with public office holders and which interests they represent.

Pursuant to paragraphs 5(2)(j) and 7(3)(k) of the Act, consultant and in-house lobbyists, respectively, are required to disclose all techniques of communication that they use or expect to use to lobby, including “grass-roots communication.”

For the purposes of the Act, grass-roots communication occurs when, for payment and on behalf of a client or employer, individuals appeal to the public to communicate with public office holders about a registrable topic, through such means as advertisements, websites, organization of a letter writing campaign, or through social media tools such as (but not limited to) Facebook or Twitter.

Undertaking to communicate with a public office holder using grass-roots communication, with respect to the topics listed above, on behalf of a client, will require individuals to register as a consultant lobbyist.

The most senior officer of an organization or corporation should consider the time spent by paid employees developing and/or managing grass-roots communication when determining whether registration is required. When communication with public office holders by paid employees of organizations or corporations, including grass-roots communication, constitutes a significant part of the duties of one employee or would constitute a significant part of the duties of one employee if they were performed by one employee, registration is necessary.

For further information, please contact:

Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada
255 Albert Street
10th Floor
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 6A9
Telephone: 613-957-2760
Facsimile:  613-957-3078
Email: QuestionsLobbying@ocl-cal.gc.ca

Karen E. Shepherd
Commissioner of Lobbying
May 2016